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Movie Review

Alexander (15A)

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1 of 1 Lacks the killer punch
Lacks the killer punch

Directed by Oliver Stone, starring Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Jared Leto, Anthony Hopkins, Rosario Dawson, Connor Paolo, John Kavanagh, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Nick Dunning.

Epic in its tale but not in the telling, Oliver Stone's take on one of history's most championed leaders will leave you feeling perplexed, and a little bit disappointed for Alexander's legend.

Alexander the Great was a warrior and conqueror whose legacy will forever be etched in history. Renowned for never having lost a battle, he craved kingdoms beyond most ruler's imaginings. Alexander never settled for less than what he yearned for. He seldom strayed from his heart's direction and was revered and respected by those who encountered his might and generosity of spirit.

The task of bringing his legend to screen was always going to be a mammoth one for Stone. Somewhere along the line the challenge of recreating history seems to have turned into a poisoned chalice and Alexander the Great became Alexander the Mediocre. 'Alexander' is the culmination of decades of work on the part of Stone and, for his part, its reception has been far from heartwarming, or indeed pocket-lining. Written in conjunction with a historical biographer, every effort has been made to capture detail in this biopic, but the final package still lacks the killer punch that you feel 'Alexander' should have dealt.

The film sees Alexander (Farrell) begin his adventure as a boy torn between the obsessive and smothering love of his mother Olympias (Jolie) and the ambivalence of his hardened father Philip (Kilmer). Proving himself fit to be a warrior from an early age, Alexander sets out to conquer the unknown upon the murder of his father, with his boyhood friend Hephaistion (Leto) always by his side.

Alexander's journey in the conquest of lands, that eventually amounted to over 2m square miles, is well documented in the impressive scale of the expeditions and the ensuing battle scenes. The huge resources that have gone into the elaborate reconstructions do ensure some visually overwhelming moments, where you really want to get drawn into the world that Alexander inhabited, but inevitably the feeling is short-lived.

With a script that perhaps over-sensitises the character of Alexander and plays down his commanding presence, Colin Farrell appears to do his best with the role as it was presented to him. Despite much criticism about the casting of Angelina Jolie in the part of Alexander's mother, she shines as the vengeful, serpent-lover that will stop at nothing to see her son claim what, she feels, is rightfully his.

Jared Leto too is impressive in his portrayal of Hephaistion, even if the relationship between his character and Alexander is shakily developed. Stone's decision to heavily hint towards Alexander's bisexuality, without openly declaring it in the film, has produced some awkward moments. The relationship could have successfully underlined Alexander's obvious sensitivities, but instead serves only to encumber a film already bursting at the seams with complicated relationships.

There is no doubting that it took bravery and a lot of heart to even attempt to capture some of what this great man was. And while you want to like 'Alexander' for the legend that inspired it, there are just too many flaws in this movie to ignore. A shame to say, that the part played by screen legend Anthony Hopkins is one of those. Hopkins takes on the role of Alexander's confidant Ptolemy, who narrates the piece by way of storytelling years later. While no fault of Hopkins, the piece is unnecessary, serving only to add extra length to an already tedious telling.

Maybe it's the moment that Mick Lally tries to sell King Philip a horse in his best Irish accent... Maybe it's when Alexander's jungle battle becomes a hippy-like rose-tinted trance... Or maybe it's just the sheer length that you'll feel is a step too far.

However you look at it, this is one battle that even Alexander the Great couldn't save.

Linda McGee

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